Other than a few breaks for career detours — and another to get married and move back home to West Virginia — Janice Lowe has worked at The Jacksonville Landing since nearly the beginning.
“I’ve been here a long time,” she said. “I have worked so many hours and so many days, but when the band is playing and the people are having fun, it gives me joy. It gives me life.”
Her first job at the Landing, which opened in 1987, was a paid summer internship while she was attending Florida State University. It was supposed to last from May-August 1989, but Lowe agreed to stay on through Labor Day.
“I went home Monday and then got a call on Tuesday and they hired me to be the special events coordinator,” she said.
Later that year, she was in Tallahassee for an FSU football game and ran into her fifth-grade sweetheart. The couple married and moved to her home state, West Virginia, where they lived until 1995, when the family returned to Jacksonville and Lowe went to work for the American Cancer Society.
It wasn’t long before her phone rang again.
“In 1996, I got another call from the Landing and they offered me the marketing manager job,” said Lowe.
That was her job in August 2003, when Sleiman Enterprises bought the center from the Rouse Co.
It marked a transition for the Landing and soon, another transition for Lowe.
“Three months later, Toney Sleiman called me while I was at the hair salon — I went there during the week because I worked every weekend — and he told me I needed to get back to the office. That’s the day I became general manager,” Lowe said.
She’s seen a lot of change at the Landing. When it opened, there were stores like Sharper Image, Banana Republic and Victoria’s Secret. That was way ahead of its time, Lowe said.
Over the years, the focus has shifted from high-end retail to small-business retail, dining and entertainment.
Lowe said the Landing was the site of 648 events in 2015, including promotions, concerts, charity walks and signature events, such as the annual lighting of the Christmas tree and Earth Day.
She and her team are getting ready for what’s always the busiest time of the year: football season.
With Jacksonville Jaguars home games, the annual Georgia-Florida weekend and this year, Navy versus Notre Dame in November, plus the TaxSlayer Bowl on Dec. 31, “there’s going to be a lot going on,” Lowe said.
In addition, a new Asian restaurant — Lanna Thai and Sushi — is on track to open in September and the former ice cream shop inside near the courtyard is being transformed into Dinky Donuts.
Hooter’s, one of the center’s original tenants, is planning a complete renovation that will begin in early 2017.
Another change that’s coming up is the date for the annual Light Boat Parade.
It’s been on the Saturday after Thanksgiving for years, but it’s been moved to Dec. 30 to be part of the TaxSlayer Bowl festivities, Lowe said.
“When I came to work here, I was 23 years old. The Landing has been my professional life. It’s 29 years later, but one thing hasn’t changed,” she said. “We make sure there’s always something going on at the Landing.”